Poll dispute sucks in SA parly


HARARE – Facing a fast-approaching election without reforms, Zimbabwe’s two beleaguered ruling MDC parties have made a desperate appeal to South Africa to stop President Robert Mugabe from forcing a snap election in March without implementing an election roadmap.

South Africa’s parliamentary committee on international relations and cooperation says it is swamped by a wide range of requests for assistance by Zimbabwean parties.

The MDC parties and civil society cemented their requests for support at a meeting with the South African parliamentary committee at a meeting in Pretoria last week.

The Zimbabwean delegation comprised spokesperson for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party Douglas Mwonzora and policy coordinator for Welshman Ncube’s MDC Qhubani Moyo.

Other members of the delegation were Zimbabwe Election Support Network national director Rindai Chipfunde, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director Irene Petras, Solidarity Peace Trust’s research and advocacy chief Brian Raftopolous and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson Thabani Nyoni.

The Zimbabwean delegation, which met their South African counterparts for several hours in Pretoria on Thursday, emphasised the need for pro-active involvement of regional bloc Sadc and the African Union (AU) in the implementation of the power-sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA).

The delegation urged South Africa, Sadc’s mandated facilitator in the Zimbabwe dialogue, to strengthen its hand in the mediation to respond more forcefully to attempts by the 88-year-old to unilaterally go for fresh polls by March without fundamental reforms.

The team said Zimbabwe needs a new, democratic constitution, harmonisation of the current laws with the new constitution, a peaceful environment, a credible Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) secretariat, demilitarisation of the electoral processes and respect of the GPA before going for fresh polls.

Moyo said his MDC was not concerned about the election date but wanted conditions to be conducive. The party wants a clear roadmap with sign posts for a free and fair election.

“In terms of the law, the life of Parliament comes to an end on 29 June 2013, five years to the day the President was sworn-in,” Moyo told the SA parliamentary committee.

“This means that the elections should be called by 30 June — to be held in 90 days — which means by 29 September 2013 we must go for fresh elections. This is significant also because you need to create new institutions created by the constitution.”

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Mwonzora said polls were process-driven, adding his party would contest in polls only if minimum requirements are met.

Chipfunde told the SA committee that the creation of a violent-free environment where freedom of assembly, association and speech among others are upheld is critical.

She called for the opening up of election observation to all interested stakeholders and for observers to be invited by Zec not the minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa, a member of Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

She highlighted to the SA committee the need for a fresh voters’ roll, and that Zec should be independent of executive influence and report to Parliament, be well-resourced and be given its full mandate in the management of the election.

Raftopolous said Sadc must stand by the agreement that it has facilitated and guaranteed.

“In the process, the regional body needs to fortify its position against the clear intention of Zanu PF to destroy the GPA,” he said.

“The purpose of such a strategy is once again to subject Zimbabwean citizens to fraudulent election under a constitution that has been repeatedly amended to suit the distortions of executive power that have played so large a role in bringing about the country’s current predicament.”

Nyoni said Sadc and the AU must send in observers six months before the elections and the observers should stay for six months after the elections.

“Hargreaves Magama, the chairman of the parliamentary committee, said the Zimbabwean people have suffered “so much, for too long” and that the SA Parliament has a responsibility to pursue a sustainable solution.

He pledged that South Africa will make a minimum demand before the next election for the creation of an environment free of violence and manipulation.

“If Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is not 100 percent free, it will muddle the waters even more,” he said.
 “That process needs a credible Zec, if you don’t have credible institutions you will go the Sierra Leone way,” he said referring to the forthcoming November 17 poll in the war-torn country that has been marred by divisive electoral rhetoric and brinkmanship.

“Zec must be credible so that the electoral outcome is believable to the majority of Zimbabweans,” Magama said.

The SA legislative committee promised the Zimbabwe delegation that they will engage the South African facilitation team, Sadc and Zanu PF to seek a lasting solution to the crisis.

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